Saturday, January 9, 2016

Travel agent accused of stealing from Smithfield High families facing charges in second county in Michigan

A travel agent charged with embezzling money from nine Smithfield High School families in connection to a botched Europe trip was arrested Wednesday on similar accusations from seven more families in Warren County.

Augustine Acheampong, 33, who owns Lorton-based Grade A Travel, turned himself in last week to Isle of Wight County authorities after a grand jury indicted him on nine counts of embezzlement, authorities said.

He was in Isle of Wight General District Court on Wednesday for a hearing to determine his lawyer when authorities served him warrants for seven additional counts of embezzlement on behalf of Warren County, according to officials from both counties.

Warren County is about 200 miles northwest of Isle of Wight.

Acheampong, who was released last week on a $5,000 bond for the Isle of Wight charges, will be taken to Western Tidewater Regional Jail, said Commonwealth’s Attorney Georgette Phillips. His arraignment in Warren County is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Dec. 9, according to Warren County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton.

Augustine Acheampong, 33, is facing nine counts of embezzlement.  (Isle of Wight County Sheriff's Office) His preliminary hearing in Isle of Wight is scheduled for Jan. 27, 2016, Phillips said.

Authorities said the new charges are connected to students from Warren County High School who were supposed to go on the Europe trip with Smithfield High students before it was canceled days before departure.

Smithfield parents and students said their group of 18 began planning the trip in 2014. The group found out in May that Acheampong was going to add two more Virginia high schools to the trip, including one in Warren County, parents told the Daily Press.

Warren County students had been fundraising and planning the trip for two years, according to the county’s sheriff’s office. He canceled their trip because there was a “lack of participation,” the sheriff’s office said.

The Smithfield High parents said Acheampong canceled the trip because he claimed their agent in Europe fell through.

The Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office began investigating complaints in September from parents who said they never got the refund Acheampong had promised them.

Warren County families first filed a complaint with their sheriff’s office in mid-September and claimed they weren’t refunded the $3,600 they each paid for the trip, Layton said. The sheriff’s office said one of ten people was partially reimbursed.

Multiple Smithfield parents – and at least one who was going to go on the trip -- told the Daily Press that they paid Acheampong about $3,300 each.

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